Deschutes County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Alta Brady is stepping down from the bench.

Brady will serve her last day Dec. 31, according to a letter she sent Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday. That’s a year before her term would expire.

Brady was first appointed as judge by then-Gov. Barbara Roberts in 1994 and was first elected to the court in November of that year.

She was promoted to presiding judge in 2012. Once she leaves, Judge Wells Ashby will take over as presiding judge, according to Deschutes County Trial Court Administrator Jeff Hall.

Brady made her announcement in a two-page letter, which also included her take on the state of the judicial circuit, which she often has said is understaffed and underfunded.

In 2009, the circuit’s budget was cut by 22 percent because of the Great Recession, Brady said in her letter. On Thursday afternoon, she was a speaker at an annual “State of the Circuit Court” address, where she hit many of the same points as she did in the letter. She said despite economic recovery, the staffing of the court is the same as in 2009 following the cuts.

At the same event, Hall said because of the 2017 Legislature cutting the county circuit court’s budget by $660,000, the court will move to shutting down courtrooms on certain days to cut staffing costs.

As a result, trial dates will continually get pushed further back, Brady said.

Brady said efforts to lobby legislators into pushing more money into the justice system have been ineffective. She proposed someone coming after her could try and figure out how to make voting against a better-funded court system political suicide, although she said that seems unlikely.

“What it will take to change that, I clearly do not know,” she said.

While Brady has been quick to criticize the Legislature’s lack of funds, she has not given a specific reason for her retirement. In her letter, she tells Gov. Kate Brown that she does not bring up budget issues as a complaint, but rather to help inform the governor of the situation. She said she has worked hard to improve efficiency regardless of resources.

“Despite these efforts, the ongoing budget reductions mean that we provide less service to the public, which does not fulfill our mission of providing services or inspiring public confidence in the courts,” the letter states.

Brown will appoint someone to the vacancy. In her letter to Brown, Brady offered to help set up a committee to screen applicants and said she knows of several qualified attorneys who would be interested in the job.

— Reporter: 541-383-0376, awieber@bendbulletin.com

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